The question of whether college is worth it is a fairly new one in the scheme of things. When you’re looking at payment options so you can afford college, you have to deal with the fact that tuition has gone up by 296 percent since 1995. A price increase of this magnitude is hard to deal with when post-collegiate employment options don’t look promising. It’s not that there aren’t any jobs available. It’s that wages are low and the cost of living is high, making it hard to pay off student loans.
A recent poll found 47 percent don’t think college is worth the cost, while 49 percent do. Young people between 18 and 34 were especially negative, with 57 percent giving college a thumbs down, while 39 insisted college is worth it. These numbers have changed drastically over the course of four years. In 2013, 56 percent of young people were optimistic and 38 percent weren’t.
This graph shows the breakdown of opinion:
Where do you stand on the efficacy of college? There are, of course, studies that show college graduates earn a lot more. But it’s not my intent to trot these studies out for you. Instead, I’m going to focus on the current state of the US economy, and show why it indicates college is indeed worth the cost.
Jobs Numbers and Wages
Wages have stagnated for the bottom 20 percent of workers since the 1970s. By and large, the bottom 20 percent of earners are those who only have a high school diploma, or less. A college degree prepares you for a job in the upper 80 percent. And there may be good news on the horizon for wage growth.
The unemployment rate is currently 4.4 percent, the lowest it’s been since before the Great Recession, and maintaining full employment is the key to raising wages. As the economic argument goes, the more people are employed, the more demand there is for workers. Greater demand for workers translates into higher wages as employers have to do more to attract qualified employees.
At the current rate, barring unforeseen catastrophe, there’s no reason the unemployment rate won’t continue to fall.
A lower unemployment rate also means more job openings. The more people are employed, the more productivity and growth for businesses, which means employers need to increase the number of positions as they grow. Again, businesses want to attract qualified employees, and they view those with a college degree as being more qualified.
The current economic picture points toward more job opportunities and higher wages. This means people with college degrees will not only be able to find a job, they’ll also be able to pay off student loan debt faster than they can now.
And when it comes to finding a job, nothing beats personal connections. College gives you the chance to make plenty of personal connections that could last for the rest of your life.
A Matter of Degrees
There are other added bonuses. Some degrees prepare you to help people in ways you never could without the degree. A master’s in social work allows you to provide therapy to clients who sorely need it, and the US Bureau of Labor expects social work careers to grow 19 percent by 2024. That’s a low estimate. The median salary for social workers is $46,890, but you can expect that number to rise too. Careers that require empathy, such as social work, are among the low risk jobs when it comes to automation. You won’t find a robot giving anyone therapy anytime soon.
The same applies to nursing jobs. Nurses need empathy, something artificial intelligence will never have. There are nursing school scholarships available to help ease the cost of tuition. You’ll earn a Bachelor of Science in anything from Therapeutics to Microbiology to Pathophysiologic Foundations. Aging baby boomers are going to need great care from qualified nurses. You’ll be well-equipped to help, and there will be no shortage of jobs available.
Once robots take over, it will be an incredibly competitive market when it comes to scoring social work jobs and nursing jobs. But if you get in on these fields now, you’ll be ahead of the pack.
Furthermore, degrees in high paying fields today are becoming easier to get. Health administrators earn an average of $63,414 a year. To get a master’s degree in health administration, you don’t need to take the GRE, you can do it online, and it only takes two years.
College Is Worth It
Given the fact that low-paying jobs such as cashier, toll booth worker, and fast food worker will be automated in the coming years, from the job availability and money perspective, it’s definitely worth it to go to college. And college is an eye-opening experience. If you have to take out loans, just prepare yourself by studying as hard as you can. Meet as many people as you can and look into good jobs before you graduate.